“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
FOMO – Yes! That’s a “thing”!
FOMO is now an official “word” and is included in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “fear of missing out: fear of not being included in something (such as an interesting or enjoyable activity) that others are experiencing”.
Perhaps you’ve not heard this term yet, but it’s definitely “trending now”!
Social media has been raging, and the number of users is staggering.
“Facebook and YouTube dominate this landscape, as notable majorities of U.S. adults use each of these sites. At the same time, younger Americans (especially those ages 18 to 24) stand out for embracing a variety of platforms and using them frequently. Some 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of these users (71%) visit the platform multiple times per day. Similarly, 71% of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45%) are Twitter users.”
Think about this:
“Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis.” (www.pewinternet.org)
Of course, whether we are personally involved or not, we need to acknowledge social media as the primary communication model for today’s teens and adults.
There are certainly positive aspects of communicating online (staying close to those far away, getting support during crises, seeing photos of loved ones, etc.). However, the findings from the Pew Research Center regarding the negative aspects are worth noting:
The pressure teens feel “to only post content that makes them look good” and “will get them a lot of likes and comments” is a peer-driven filter system at work.
And the FOMO despair teens feel is a crushing self-concept blow to those with “ordinary” lives.
It’s been said that we Facebook users compare our own “blooper reels” to others’ “highlight reels”, leaving us feeling neglected, unimportant, or even worthless, as if life has passed us by.
In a recent article in Psychology Today, “The Science of FOMO and What We’re Really Missing Out On”, Dr. Nick Hobson stated “It’s prevalent especially among young adults in Western society. And while fear of missing out has always been there, the explosion of social media has launched our young people headfirst into the FOMO experience. Now we have the ability (or curse) to easily see what all our peers are doing all the time.” (www.psychologytoday.com)
So… how can we help teens become critical thinkers about the culture?
First of all, a conversation with the pre-teens and teens is necessary. This is an opportunity to let them know that you experience FOMO too, and open a door to sharing how posts on social media affect us all. The best way to help young people deal with FOMO is by working through these feelings together.
If you have a social media account, show them the “exciting adventures” posted by your friends and colleagues. Explain that this is part of the social media experience – and more realistically – the human experience. People brag! They name drop! They want to feel important! This explosion of bragging on social media isn’t a new concept, just a new format.
This new interactive and immediate world of social media has consequences… some good, some troubling.
God has given each of us the ability to gain wisdom and discernment. The Holy Spirit is available to guide our lives.
Let’s help teens learn to lean on our heavenly Father each day.